Dominican Republic - Illness

Nov 9th, 2006, 11:44 AM
Original Poster
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Dominican Republic - Illness

My husband and I are looking for a quick getaway over New Year's. Some of the deals in the Dominican Republic are too good to pass up, so my husband is pushing that. My hesitancy is that generally when I read a review of someone's trip to the DR, there is a section dedicated to illness - how many people they were traveling with got ill, how many days they had to spend in bed, whether they went to the hospital, etc., etc. Other than the problem with the drinking water (which people insist they didn't drink or even brush their teeth with), why is the illness in the DR so prevalent?

I visited Antigua three years ago and contracted e. coli. We were told it was safe to drink the water, and we stayed at a nice resort. My husband didn't get sick, but I missed the last three days of my vacation and when we got back home, I ended up in the hospital and on the antibiotic Cipro. I wasn't back to normal for nearly a month. It was miserable, so I'm sure you can understand my concern about the DR. Thanks!
Becca is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 04:46 PM
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This has always been a mystery to me as well. My husband and myself went there nearly 5 years ago. He was very ill on the trip home. I didn't get sick at all. His daugther went recently and was sick for an entire 3 days.When they returned her husband was so sick he ended up in an emergency ward. I would like to think when it was a new destination perhaps the food handling was not up to par with the other Caribbean Islands. Perhaps it doesn't happen as often as it use to years ago. I know the travel agent told me not to eat the sea food. The fish eat the coral. Not sure if this is the problem that causes the illness or not. I know I didn't eat any seafood nor was I sick. We would not return simply because he was sick. We never knew why, but if the place is still so "ify" why chance it? Especially since you all ready had a bad experience. I would try St. Thomas or Puerto Rico or even Turkss and Caicos. We can become sick right here in any restaurant at any time. I have heard of people who have gone to DR 7-9 times and have never had a problem in the DR. I guess it is just the being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If it were me I would choose a different destination and take my chances elsewhere.
diann is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 05:16 AM
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This February will make our 11th time to the D.R. and have NEVER BEEN SICK..Here is the secret..DON'T DRINK THE WATER, coconut based drinks act as laxative.. and so do too many fruit based drinks.. If you remember not to drink the water and not to indulge in too many pina coladas and whatever your all set. I do take an an anti-diarhea (sp) with me just in case I over indulge..try eating yogurt occasionally... we love the D.R. The resort we go to has high sanitary standards and there is somebody checking the temp. of the food continually...that's their only job.. On year coming back on our plane from another resort a gentleman spent most of his time in the hospital...not from our resort..
ParrotMom is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 01:50 AM
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Parrotmom....which resort do you go to?...Would like recommendations...Thanks.
jannieween is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 02:58 AM
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This type of complaint is frequently heard in locales where there are a lot of AI's (Mexico, DR). It's just my own opinion that the way AI's handle food is a huge part of the problem.

We have been going to both Mexico and the islands of the Caribbean for at least 4 weeks per year for 15 years.

Of the 1000+ meals we've eaten, I was sick once for one day and my husband has never been sick.

ParrotMom gives you very good advice about the water and the affect of fruit drinks on one's system. I think the quality of the resort is very important too.

If you have a major concern, I would rethink the whole AI idea. The food sits out for hours at a time and is subject to flies, heat and dirty fingers.
Diana is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 03:30 AM
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We have fallen in love with the Sunscape chain in the D.R., mainly Sunscape Casa del Mar... It has become so popular that this year they are having a "Repeaters Fiesta" the first week in February.. The beach is white sand, the water warm Carribean blue, the staff is awesome.. and it's the only resorts that i've ever seen the Managers of the hotel walking around during the day (not behind a locked door) are picking up, re-arranging, eating the same food as the guests and talking seriously to guests... and listening to suggestions or complaints and acting on any ideas that they can follow through on. Oh evening there is a beach party...tables set with linens and glasses all over the beach and table after table of food... and the managers on hand to greet the guests... another night the same type around the pool. There is also a Sunscape the Beach in Punta Cana... a bigger resort which we have visited when it first opened, but our heart is in La Romana..At one of the Sunscapes I can remember how proud they were of having the highest cleanliness rating I think in Punta Cana. Several years ago we decided to try a resort in Playa de Carmen..we paid more for off season than we do for 'the season".. the staff was rude (an Iberostar), the place dirty and musty smelling and the food sub par...not to mention all the mosquitos. That was the first vacation at an AI resort that i couldn't wait to go home from.
ParrotMom is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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I have to agree with Diana about this. I think it has more to do with the food handling itself than the location. That being said, I would not drink the water in the DR. However, I have never had a problem in the Caribbean before. I do not do buffets and I do not do AI. I would not even do this in the states. I have worked in the hotel and restaurant industry for many years and because of this I cannot bring myself to do it. I hope you have a wonderful illness-free trip! But I would not recommend an AI to anyone who has been sick before. GL
MIM04 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 09:27 AM
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There are many AI resorts that have ala carte restaurants. The food is NOT sitting out on a buffet all day. I have been to AI in the DR and did not eat at one buffet and was never sick.
schmerl is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 11:25 AM
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No one really said they are all like that. I think I was just trying to give the OP something to look for...having seen the behind the scenes of many places before, food handling standards vary a lot.
MIM04 is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 10:17 AM
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I agree that it is about water, and food handling... not the destination. I would never drink anything accept bottled water. To be able to evaluate everyone's troubles in the DR, we'd need to know where they stayed, what they ate, etc. Just the fact that it was on this particular island is not enough information to make an informed decision.
suze is online now  
Nov 12th, 2006, 11:06 AM
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FYI-when you get literally off the airplane in DR you are instructed about the water. That is just common knowledge not even to brush your teeth with the water. My husband did not drink the water. As some have stated to be so ill as to be on an IV and be taken to am emergency ward is for more than a party atmosphere, or to many fruited cocktails. It goes beyond this. If you research, you will see that many people have complained over the years on a continual basis on this particular island. I am happy for those who have gone many times and didn't experience the sickness. That is great. Maybe Becca can stay at Sunscape in the DR on Parrot Moms reommendation and not have any issues.
diann is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 01:02 PM
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Don't forget about avoiding ice if the water is questionable.
Carrybean is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 07:40 PM
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Okay... at the Sunscapes..there are sit down restaurants.. the buffet is at breafast where the food is being cooked right in front of you.. I myself avoid buffets like the plague.. In PDC at a resort I requested a hamburg from the man cooking them..and he kept pointing to ones already sitting...I did not take NO for an answer...I got my fresh one.
ParrotMom is offline  
Nov 13th, 2006, 04:15 AM
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I have traveled around the world. I've only been sick in 3 places: Italy was food poisoning (That could have happened anywhere) once in Mexico (I've been to Mexico numerous times, and only once) and once at Sunscape in Punta Cana DR. I did not eat buffets, only at the sit down a la carte restaurants. At the time, I was a very experienced traveler, and did everything right. (bottled water, etc.) It was not bad, but my tummy was upset for about a week. Not bad enough to stop me from doing anything, just enough to be uncomfortable for a week or two. My friend never felt bad-but on the airplane ride home, we took a small survey-on the airplane, about 70% of the passangers had stomach problems. Not severe, but enough to take Imodium coming home. None of us had to go to the hospital or stay in bed-but there's a reason DR has the reputation!
blamona is offline  
Nov 13th, 2006, 02:53 PM
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It's interesting that this centers around the resort development of Punta Cana, is that correct?

I traveled twice in the DR a LONG time ago around Puerto Plata (2 weeks) and Sosua (4 weeks), eating very "rough", with no issues at all.
suze is online now  
Nov 13th, 2006, 06:01 PM
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In Punta Cana the Sunscape you went to... the resort is no longer a Sunscape..There is now the brand new Sunscape the Beach. the only time was ever when I drank "magic" water in the mountains of and I was sick enough to go to the M.D. when I got home.
ParrotMom is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 02:17 AM
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Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, Sosua, Caberette -- regardless of not drinking the water and being super-careful about drinks and food, I've gotten sick in them all. In fact, the DR is literally
the ONLY country worldwide, let alone the Caribbean, where this has been true. The muncipal sewage systems and sanitation/food handling, even at upscale resorts, leaves lots to be desired.
tivertonhouse is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 02:21 AM
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Malaria is another consideration to take note of for travellers to the DR.
See the latest issue of Conde Nast Traveller/the UK edition.
tivertonhouse is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 02:39 PM
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The DR also had some hepetitus(sp) problems last year. I talked some friends into going to aruba instead. They loved it, and have been back twice. They are all in there 60's 70's and I would have hated to see them being high risk as they were, subjected to illness.
diann is offline  
Nov 15th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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Here is an account of my two Sons trip to the DR ........

I started typing this as a story but felt it got too copious so I am opting
for a day by day review/account of our ďvacationĒ.


We arrived at Logan for our 10am TNT (Xtra Airways) flight, we were greeted
by smiles and positive vibes which was great and immediately put us in
vacation mode. We arrived in Punta Cana that afternoon and our first
impressions of the airport put smiles on our faces with the Tiki Hut baggage
claim and the tropical theme.

We were bused to the CCP and checked in only to find our room housed a King
bed and not the 2 doubles we reserved when booking. We were assured that an
additional bed would be brought to us with the luggage. Our concerns were
put at ease and at this point we considered it a non-issue. Our room (1259)
had in our opinion one of the best views of the Atlantic and also the main
pool. After our luggage had been delivered we retreated back to the
reservation desk to purchase the key to the safe and ask about the bed.
Understanding that Friday is a turn-over day, we were very tolerant. They
again assured us that the bed would arrive that day and not to worry. At
that point we set off to explore.

Both pleased with the accommodations, we landed at bar next to our building
and enjoyed a few Rum Punches and took in the scenery. That night, we met up
with a few friends we made on the trip down and ate at the buffet. It wasnít
an immediate love fest with the food but thatís not why we were there.

Hoping to relax after traveling we went back to the room, still no bed. We
called the desk and they said it was as good as on its way. After a few
hours we called again and nothing. Deciding to surrender our efforts for the
day, we called it a night.


We were up early Saturday morning ate at the buffet which was
predominately ďAmericanĒ food prepared in a foreign way. We met with out TNT
rep that morning for orientation and were excited to explore the island
signing up for the Tiki Boat and Catamaran trip to Snonoa Island. Our TNT
rep, Narciso helped us secure a twin bed which was being assembled by the
time we got back to the room. Happy, we again set off to explore our new
surroundings. We decided that Parasailing and Banana Boating would be fun
events for later in the week.


After spending the morning at the beach and being a bit tired of the buffet
we ate lunch at one of the beach bars. Mostly chicken with some rice and
bread. Feeling a little tired after lunch we went to relax in our room. We
ended up napping for about an hour waking up only to feel even more tired.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon in the room starting to feel sick.
That night we had reservations at the Italian restaurant. The both of us and
our company both felt the food was sub-par and didnít finish our meals. This
sentiment seemed to be common amongst the others in the restaurant. We
immediately returned to our room and napped.

After about an hour, trouble began. We both were feeling ill and showing the
same symptoms. We both ďgot upĒ approximately many times that night.


Feeling worse than the night prior, we spent most of the morning in the room
and on our balcony. Thinking it was a 24-hour situation, neither of us was
concerned. We did manage to visit the beach in the afternoon and spent some
time walking around the resort. Neither of us felt like eating at the
restaurants and settled for Gatorade and Nutrigrain bars that we had brought
with us.


We were scheduled to leave on the Tiki Boat but after waking up and feeling
terrible we knew it wasnít a good idea. By this time we knew something
really wasnít right. The feeling in our stomachs was something we had never
felt before. Nervously, we both concluded it was time to seek medical
attention. Being in an unfamiliar country, this made us both reluctant but
we started to hear about other people in our situation.

The doctor didnít tell us it was food poisoning as we suspected but he
didnít tell us much of anything. I concluded that it might put the resort in
a compromising situation if we were told this. The doctor gave us each an IV
of antibiotics along with rehydration salts. Not to be graphic but at this
point we had both visited the bathroom 30+ times each. We did attempt Pepto
(20USD bottle) prior to our medical treatment. The doctor assured us that we
would be OK for our Wednesday catamaran trip if we received an IV in the

It was also on this day when we noticed the bottled water caps didnít match
the bottles. A blue cap could be on a white bottle and vice versa. We also
noticed some tasted strange and that not all the caps were securely on even
though they contained the twist-off rings.

Sitting on my balcony, the maid was cleaning the balcony next door. I asked
her for another pillow (both in Spanish and English). She responded that she
didnít have one. When I asked if she could help me get one it was cold and
essentially a no.


Feeling a little better we were up at 6am to receive another dose of
antibiotic IVís. It was at this point the doctor inquired about the bruise
on my ribs which I didnít know I had. After connecting the dots I realized
it was from the bar in the bed I had been sleeping on. Being in so much pain
in my stomach, I didnít even realize this was there.

We met our bus at the hotel lobby and departed for our voyage. About an hour
into the trip and starting to feel worse the TNT rep announced the trip was
canceled due to the rain. At this stage we were both excited to return to
our rooms. When we returned (approx 11:00am) we were in terrible pain and
the remainder of the day consisted of sleep and bathroom visits. Around 6pm
that night, my brother started to feel violently ill. Vomiting profusely
like nothing I have ever witnessed. Having nothing in our stomachs, this
consisted of mainly of what we presumed to be water. At this stage we knew
another medical visit was necessary. He received a shot this time in the
rear to help with the vomiting. The doctor informed us that there was
nothing further he could do and the next step was the hospital. This was a
frightening and unwelcome thought.

In pain, we both returned to the room. The feeling was equivalent to being
repeatedly kicked in the stomach. In the fetal position we were calling home
looking for a familiar voice and guidance.

We both slept little that night and were well on our countdown to return


Felt a little better were able to leave to the room for short periods and
were able to eat crackers but still in pain with the same symptoms.


We had packed and double packed on Thursday but were awake by 6am, excited
to leave. Still sick, feeling about the same as Thursday. We checked out and
sat in the lobby waiting for the bus to take us to the airport.


We were charged $26 for phone calls made (w/ calling card) at check out.

Our medical bills are expensive (almost the price of the trip)

The food was terrible. I am a picky eater, brother is not. We both felt the
same way.

The hotel staff was unfriendly, TNT was helpful.

Room safe key was an extra $23. Worth getting for the piece of mind.

We discovered the first day there if you want a seat at the beach/pool, you
need to be awake at 6am. Most people just leave a towel on the chair and
only return to collect it at 4pm.

The water bottles had to have been reused. They were not new bottles (wear
and tear, plus the cap situation).

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